The Yale School of Public Health recently honored a nine-year Black girl from New Jersey for her efforts to help curb the presence of an invasive species known as the spotted lantern fly in her hometown of Caldwell.
Bobbi Wilson was awarded the title of “donor scientist” after donating her personal lantern fly collection to Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. According to the university, the collection is available for public viewing in the museum’s database.
Bobbi created a TikTok-inspired insect repellent out of dishwater, soap, and apple cider vinegar after learning about the bugs that ecologists have urged the public to squash on sight.
The fourth-grader affectionately known as “Bobbi Wonder” among her family and friend was spraying the lantern flies that she saw near her home last October when she was approached by a police officer and questioned. The encounter that Bobbi had with a police officer was due to the fact that her neighbor and former town council member, Gordon Lawshe called to make a report about seeing a “suspicious person”.
“There’s a little Black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees on Elizabeth and Florence. I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. Scares me, though,” Lawshe said to dispatchers, according to footage obtained by CNN.
Bobbi’s older sister Hayden, 13, called Lawshe’s actions “extremely offensive, traumatic, and scarring” for her younger sister and family.
Ijeoma Opara, who is an assistant professor of public health at Yale, invited Bobbi and her family to the school to meet other Black female scientists and tour the university shortly after the incident.
“Yale doesn’t normally do anything like this…this is something unique to Bobbi,” Opara said, according to a press release from the university. “We wanted to show her bravery and how inspiring she is,” she added.
“You know, you hear about racism; you kind of experience it in your peripheral if you’re lucky in your life. It doesn’t come knocking on your door. That morning when it happened, my world stopped,” Monique Joseph, Bobbi’s mother, said, according to the university.
In the aftermath of the incident, Joseph expressed appreciation for the outpouring of support her daughter has received.
“The whole science community got together and said, ‘She’s one of us and we’re not going to let her lose her steam for STEM. We’re going to support the family. We’re going to support this girl,’” she said.